Time for some much needed self-care tips! We all need to add self-care to our daily routines – to boost our confidence and give our self-esteem a little pep talk. But with busy lives and families that come first, there’s little time for self-compassion when we’re rushing to meet deadlines or tackling the ever-increasing laundry pile. The problem is, we associate self-care with spending a fortune on pampering or shoe-horning holistic activities into our already packed days.
The good news is self-care can be as simple as a five second change to our daily routine. Here are tips from real women, to prove that small acts of self-care can make a massive difference.
1. Sweet Song
“Take some time to listen to birdsong – It’s been humming since lockdown and it’s a lovely way to start and end the day by tuning in and re-setting,’ says mum of two, Charlie. Most birds start singing during the dawn chorus, about one hour before sunrise and pipe up again in late afternoon.
What’s fascinating is birds aren’t born with the ability to know how to sing, they have to listen to adult birds, just like babies learning to talk. Listening also requires you to be quiet – take a moment for yourself before anyone’s awake to hear the cacophony of song before the horns start beeping, or the drone of lawnmowers and shouting children drown it all out.
2. Alarm Bells
Hands up who regularly doesn’t manage 7-9 hours of sleep per night? Lack of sleep can have a massive effect on how you feel, from physical alertness, stress, memory recall, diet issues and an impaired immune system to name a few.
A simple way to look after your mental health is to go to bed an hour earlier than normal: “We love watching box sets, but more often than not we’ll be tempted to watch past midnight,” says Gemma. “It suddenly occurred to me that we set our alarms in the morning, but why shouldn’t we set them at night too? My alarm goes off at 10.30pm every weekday evening to remind me not to be tempted by one more episode.”
3. And Breathe
“Apparently most human beings don’t breathe properly, (and only think about it when they’re running out of breath). Spending some time to learn how to breathe and taking some proper deep breaths each morning and evening can really help clear away negative energy,” says mum of two, Poppy.
Download apps like The Breathing App, Headspace or Calm, for breathing techniques, guided meditation and mindfulness tips. And remember not to slouch, especially at your computer – poor posture means you’ll round your shoulders and drop your head as you sit, stopping you from breathing properly as you squash your upper body. Try pulling your shoulders back and keep your back flat against the back of the chair, whilst your feet rest flat on the ground. Keep a post-it-note on your computer to remind you to sit with good posture and to breathe.
4. Pay attention to something you do on autopilot
Do you drive the same way to work, commute on the same train or even run around the same park on autopilot, not paying attention to what is around you?
“I researched the history of all the areas I pass under every day on my tube journey to work,” says Zoe. “Now instead of mindlessly travelling along, I think about the 19thcentury pet cemetery underneath Hyde Park, or try to recognise the names of the trees I pass under on my morning runs.”
5. Instant Lift
“I have a picture saved on my phone that without fail makes me burst out laughing,” says Becca, 43. “When I feel my mood dip, I flip to that picture and confuse everyone in my office by stifling giggles.” Laughter increases your immunity and lowers stress levels as well as burning calories, so search for that image or video clip that makes you spit out your coffee and gives your spirit an instant lift.
6. Remember Ink?
We use technology to read, write and even draw, so the smell of a new book, sharpening pencils or having a dictionary in the house are becoming scarce. “I watched my mum writing Christmas cards last year with her beautiful handwriting and a fountain pen and decided I needed to write more,” explains Rae. “Instead of email, I write letters to friends who live far away and remember to write flourishing thank-you’s with a fountain pen – I enjoy writing them (and buying stationery) and my friends love receiving handwritten letters so it’s win-win!”
7. Start saying no
Saying no more could possibly be the kindest thing you do for yourself, as Cara, 34, found out: “I was rushing from board meetings to school meetings, agreeing to every social invite and saying ‘yes’ to my kids because I felt guilty for being at work,” she explains.
“I was almost on the verge of getting a dog, when I was hit with a lightning bolt of reality – was I really adding a dog into the craziness of our lives? After that I made a conscious effort to say NO to anything that made our lives more chaotic – and yes, that meant sometimes ignoring the daily phone call from my incredibly draining friend.”
8. Setting Intent
“I set an intention to myself at the beginning of each day and write it in my phone,” says Jess, 39. “I always make it about my state of mind; an act of kindness for example, finding positives in every bad situation or noticing nature around me.”
Try not to confuse intentions with goals, (which are also good to have); intentions are not tangible but are how you want to feel each day and often open your mind to noticing things that usually get missed.
9. Immerse yourself in nature
“When I moved to London twenty years ago, my elderly neighbour told me to make sure I experienced nature every day,” says Juliet. “His words still ring in my head and I try to walk through a ‘green space’ each day to appreciate it’s wonder.”
There are plenty of benefits to being in nature – seeing natural beauty for one, but a study from the University of Exeter found that people who spent just two hours a week in a natural environment (city parks count!) reported better health and overall wellbeing. Time to put the phone down and head into the woods…
Body & Beauty
1. Less is more
My Indian Grandmother had the most perfect skin and her mantra was, limit the sunbathing and only wear moisturising cream, mascara and a subtle lipstick. Her less is more attitude can be translated to all areas of how we look.
Are we buying too many clothes and not wearing half of them? Are we spending vast amounts on make-up and lotions when we need to give our skin a rest? Are we blow drying our hair (then dying it, plucking it and waxing it off) taking hours of valuable time? You’ll be amazed at how liberating it is to go gracefully grey, whilst investing in some really good lippy.
2. Ban the Balm
“When I was fourteen, my school science teacher watched me endlessly covering my lips in lip balm and told me I should drink water instead,” explains Ivy, 25. “Lip balms often contain ingredients like menthol or phenol which coats lips and suck the moisture out of them. They then become dry and dehydrated and we respond by putting more lip balm on. It then becomes a perpetual cycle.” Check the ingredients on lip balms and opt for balms like the Nuxe Reve De Miel Lip Moisturising Stick, which contain honey, shea butter and plant oils.
3. Lemon Squeezy
“My mum always drank hot water with a slice of lemon every morning, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I realised the benefits of what she was doing,” says Alex.
Alex’s mum had it spot on – drinking warm water rehydrates us first thing (our bodies are normally dehydrated when we wake up), it also kick-starts our digestive system and helps to flush any toxins out. Lemons are packed with vitamin C, magnesium and potassium which help boost your immunity and are great for your skin too.
4. Oregano Oil
“If I feel the tiniest tickle in my throat I take a teaspoon of Oregano Oil (straight or diluted with water) and my symptoms are usually gone by the morning – you may smell like a margarita pizza but it’s worth it,” says mum-of-three Leigh.
5. Magic Magnesium
“My personal trainer advised me to use Magnesium Cream to help with sleep. It totally works,” says Mel. “Women in their forties lack magnesium and their bodies need it to relax, however if you exercise a lot your magnesium can be depleted, and you need to put it back in.”
Magnesium also helps the overall appearance of your skin and its elasticity; but taking magnesium pills can have a laxative effect – creams are much better and moisturise your skin at the same time.
6. Wrinkle in Time
“My small act of kindness to my future self is to moisturise my neck and décolletage every day,” says Georgiana. “I know I’ll thank myself one day when I have fewer wrinkles.” You don’t have to buy special creams, any moisturiser will do, but it’s a good idea to make sure it contains sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30 or higher, as it’s thought that 80% of the visible signs of ageing are down to sun exposure.
7. Mix-tape Emotions
My friend suggested I make a self-care playlist for when I need an uplift,” says Emily, 33. “I’ve got songs that remind me of people who make me happy, songs that we played on different holidays, tracks my dad introduced me to and one song that evokes the memories of a naughty holiday romance in Croatia that always makes me smile.”
8. Keep it Cotton
The average person spends around 26 years sleeping during their lifetime so it’s worth investing in good quality bedding. “I still had bedlinen leftover from university on my bed ten years later,” laughs Gabrielle. “It wasn’t until my godmother bought me Egyptian cotton bedlinen that I realised what I was missing.”
Egyptian cotton has fibres that are longer than any other cotton, which makes them much stronger, yet softer to touch. This means they stand up well to repeated washing and the fabric is lighter and has breathability. If your budget doesn’t stretch to Egyptian cotton (it’s often pricey) look at the labels and don’t get lulled into buying high thread counts, which can be hyped up. Instead choose bedlinen made from a single-ply and with long-staple cotton.
9. Phone Ban
According to research, people in the UK check their phones on average every 12 minutes. A sobering thought, which is worse when you realise how it affects your sleep. “The best thing I did for my body was stop looking at my phone so much and certainly not in the two hours before sleep,” explains Astrid, 27.
Using electronic devices before bed, messes with our body’s circadian rhythm – your internal clock which tells your body it’s time to wake or fall asleep – by halting the release of melatonin which helps you feel sleepy. This is because of the blue light emitted from all devices which can also interfere with your ability to stay asleep. Reading before bed not only combats the electronic device issue, but research has shown that reading reduces your stress levels by 60 percent.
10. Be Selfish Darling
“Being more selfish was the best thing I could have done for my self-care,” says mum of four Niamh. “I’d put the children first for years and the only time I was ever on my own was in the loo! I got to the point where I was physically and mentally exhausted and had forgotten that if my mood was low, it had a ripple effect for everyone around me.”
Make sure your needs are on the family weekly planner too. Start with giving yourself ten minutes a day where you focus on you. This might mean planning your career, practising mindfulness or just closing your eyes and listening to music. Just make sure there’s a huge sign on your door saying: ‘Do not disturb….’